Finding Affordable, Accredited Programs from Top Universities
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, more than 62,000 first-time Tennessee undergraduates sought four-year degrees or certificates in 2016. Of these, 16,700 learners enrolled exclusively in distance education courses, equaling 5.4 percent of all students. That number rose to 55,100, or 17.7 percent, when including students enrolled in both online and on-campus courses. In response to this growing popularity, many colleges and universities are expanding their blended and online learning options. But with so many opportunities available now and in the future, how do students find the best one for them? Read on to learn the ins and outs of online colleges and universities in Tennessee.
For this year’s college rankings, our analysts carefully reviewed statistical data from multiple sources for more than 7,500 postsecondary institutions so that you could easily evaluate schools based on what matters most to you. For each school, we applied the eligibility criteria outlined below, then ranked schools and programs based on four ranking factors.
Eligibility Criteria for All Postsecondary Institutions:
Must be a not-for-profit institution
Must be regionally or nationally accredited
Must offer at least one online program1
Must be located in a state (schools in US territories and Washington DC were not considered)
Dozens of data points were used to calculate a weighted score for four ranking factors: quality, affordability, flexibility and program (in order of significance). To determine quality, which was the most important consideration for all AS Online rankings, the most impactful data points were acceptance and graduation rates; for affordability, tuition2 and grants; for flexibility, part-time enrollment offerings; and for program, degrees conferred in that program area.
Some of our nursing program rankings used exam pass rates from NCLEX
How to Read Our Rankings Tool:
A dash indicates IPEDS data was not available
Annual in-state tuition is displayed unless stated otherwise
1 Our Best Vocational Programs rankings included data for both online and campus programs.
2 Both annual in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our Rankings Tool currently only displays annual in-state rates.
Several key variables impact your college decision, including your academic and professional goals, budget and educational background. Start by asking some questions; do you intend to enroll as a full- or part-time student? At the colleges that stand out, how many students go on to obtain jobs or pursue graduate or doctoral degrees? Consider the average number of students taking courses, is the quality of a school’s faculty, and institutional accreditation important? When searching for the best four-year undergraduate programs in Tennessee, we consider all these variables and more to create a list of the online colleges we believe provide the best combination of online student success and quality learning environment. Take a look below:
Which online schools in Tennessee will accept my transfer credits or work/life experience?
Transferring academic credits earned elsewhere, or receiving credit for the knowledge or experience gained outside a formal educational program, proves invaluable for students. Tennessee Transfer programs guarantee that academic credits earned at a community college for two-year associate degrees will transfer to a four-year bachelor’s degrees at any public university and many private universities statewide.
Earning a college degree is an important first step toward better career prospects and enhanced earning power. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the table below shows a strong correlation between higher education and larger salaries among all Tennessee workers, regardless of industry or profession.
Mean Annual Salary for All Occupations in Tennessee, by Minimum Degree Requirement:
While trade and commerce play an important part in Tennessee’s economy, the state also has a burgeoning tourism industry. In response, local colleges are providing degree-earning opportunities in hospitality and tourism-related industries.
The Impact of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities in Tennessee
When researching online colleges in Tennessee, understanding accreditation is critical. Not only does it tell employers that you have a quality degree from a reputable institution, but it’s a key step to securing federal financial aid. Here are the two types of accreditation you need to look for when researching online colleges in Tennessee.
Regional accreditation is the most important stamp of approval for U.S. colleges and universities. All state colleges and universities in Tennessee hold regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools does similarly for independent, non-public career schools, colleges and organizations in both the U.S. and abroad. This assures students of the school’s high quality, as the institution voluntarily and successfully passed an independent, peer-review process to earn accreditation.
Paying for Online College in Tennessee: Tuition & Financial Aid
Tuition may be on the rise—not only in Tennessee but nationwide—but a college degree remains one of the best ways to earn a stronger salary. Let’s see how Tennessee tuition stacks up against the national average.
In-State Tuition, Public Colleges & Universities:$8,932
Tennessee took bold action to make higher education more accessible in May 2017 when the state expanded the Tennessee Promise program to pay tuition costs for all adults who enroll in an in-state community college. The program initially covered community college tuition costs for recent high school graduates. For eligibility, students need to reside in state for a period of one year prior to enrollment, maintain a 2.0 GPA, enroll in courses with sufficient credits for part-time status and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
What are Tennessee’s requirements to qualify for in-state university tuition?
Students from outside Tennessee may consider relocating to attend school and pay in-state tuition rates. The University of Tennessee System maintains the following student residency regulations:
Candidates under the age of 24 are considered dependent. For tuition purposes, they should hold the same residency classification as their parent(s) or legal guardian(s).
An emancipated student may establish in-state classification via clear proof of Tennessee residency. Candidates must prove that the move to Tennessee did not occur primarily for obtaining educational opportunities for themselves, their dependents or their spouse. Turning 18 does not affect emancipation status for in-state tuition purposes, nor does a student’s intent to remain in the state after attending school prove that the move occurred for reasons other than educational purposes.
Are online credits more affordable in Tennessee than other places?
Tennessee’s per-credit and overall tuition costs for online undergraduate courses and degrees differ between schools, but often remain more affordable than in many other regions. In-state students enrolled in the University of Tennessee’s online undergraduate program paid $12,500 in 2018, while tuition costs for out-of-state learners totaled $14,300. Here are a few cost-per-credit-hour rates for undergraduate tuition at a variety of online colleges in Tennessee and nearby states for 2018-2019:
Keep in mind that tuition rates are only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding the full cost of an online education. Fees and additional costs vary for online students between every college and university across Tennessee—check with the Admissions Offices at each school to learn about the full price of attendance.
How can I get help paying for online college in Tennessee?
Many students who pursue a bachelor’s degree online require financial assistance to pay for their education. Fortunately, Tennessee learners enjoy a variety of federal, state and local government funding opportunities.
Known as a go-to source for educational funding, the FAFSA program awards federal student loans, grants, scholarships and work-study programs for students enrolled in Tennessee colleges and universities, whether online or on campus.
The amount of money awarded by Tennessee Promise scholarships varies. These provide students a “last-dollar scholarship,” which means the amount covers tuition and fees not addressed by federal Pell grants, HOPE scholarships or state student assistance funds. Students may use the scholarship at any of the Tennessee’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology or other eligible institution offering associate-level degrees.
The Ned McWherter Scholars Program awards scholarships of $6,000 per academic year to help support Tennessee high school graduates with superior academic records attend college in Tennessee. The scholarship goes to seniors starting their last semester in high school.
The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans provides aid to students in all states who display integrity and perseverance in overcoming adversity. Candidates need a minimum GPA of 2.0, must write an essay, and arrange for recommendations to apply. The scholarship award grants $7,000 per academic year.
Adult education plays a key role in Tennessee labor and workforce development, often helping non-traditional learners get on the path to earning a college degree to advance their career prospects. Here are some programs that aspiring college students in Tennessee can take advantage of to jumpstart their college prospects:
High School Equivalency – According to the U.S. Census Bureau 12 percent of Tennessee’s adult population had not graduated high school or earned a GED. These programs make it easy for adult learners to earn high school equivalency certificate.
English Language Courses – English proficiency also plays a significant role in unemployment rates in Tennessee–less than half of all non-English speakers in Tennessee hold only a high school credential, making it more difficult to find gainful employment.
Many adult learners enroll in online programs to build these skills and later attend college—some university programs in Tennessee even allow adult education credits to count towards your college degree. The Tennessee Transfer Pathway program specifically provides information for transfer students.